You may think of insects as just an annoyance during the summer months, but they can also affect your health and that of your family.
"Most people are aware of specific health risks associated with certain pests, such as the West Nile virus with mosquitoes and lyme disease with ticks," says Robert Soileau, Manager of J&J Exterminating in Lake Charles. "But there are many other potential health problems - some minor and others more serious - common indoor and outdoor pests bring with them. And summer time is prime time for a number of seasonal pests that represent a risk to your health."
Here's a closer look at the more common health risks associated with specific summertime pests:
Soileau says with the increased prevalence of West Nile Virus in the summer months, mosquitoes continue to be, not only a summer nuisance pest, but also a major health threat. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), West Nile Virus infections have appeared across the United States in recent years, which makes avoiding mosquito nesting/breeding sites and eliminating standing water in or around the home even more important to the protection of public health. In addition, to the potential for West Nile Virus, mosquitoes can also cause itchy, unsightly marks as well as severe allergic reactions in human beings.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) reports that one-in-five children in the United States have severe sensitivities to cockroach allergens, which increase the severity of asthma symptoms. Soileau explains that these allergens are most commonly introduced in homes through cockroach saliva, droppings and the decomposing bodies of these pests. "Cockroaches can also carry bacteria such as E coli and salmonella on their bodies, which can contaminate food, cooking equipment and food surfaces."
Lyme disease has emerged, in recent years, as a major health risk to human beings. Soileau explains that this disease is transmitted by ticks, typically between May and October. "Lyme disease is found most frequently in the Northeastern and upper mid-western Western states, there has been an increase in the diagnosed cases of lyme disease in the South," says Soileau. "It is critical to be vigilant of ticks, especially if you are in wooded areas." Symptoms of Lyme disease include a "bull's eye" rash around the bite, flu-like symptoms and extreme fatigue.
Soileau says rodents can enter a home through almost any opening or crack. "Don't underestimate their ability to fit through even a very small opening. It is important to inspect for rodent droppings, especially in undisturbed areas such as pantries, and along walls." Rodent droppings may cause allergic reactions in human beings, but can also cause disease, including the potentially deadly Hantavirus. More frequently, though, Soileau says the rodents pose a health risk because they serve as vectors, carrying bacteria such as salmonella, on their bodies and contaminating food sources, kitchen surfaces and equipment.
Summer Stingers (Bees, Wasps, Yellow Jackets, Hornets, etc)
Stinging pests send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room each year. Soileau says these pests are a big threat in our area in the spring and summer months and are aggressive in nature, often stinging as a way to protect their colonies or larvae from human beings who attempt to remedy an infestation on their own. This aggressiveness, combined with being disturbed, often means that these pests tend to sting repeatedly, which adds to the potential for greater skin irritation or a serious allergic reaction.
Ants are social insects, meaning if you spot one, there are many more to follow. Soileau says ants are a concern because they are not simply unsightly; they can also damage electronics when infesting outdoor equipment such as a/c units, sewage systems etc. Some can also be dangerous to humans and pets such as fire ants which can give a nasty sting when they get on you.
Fleas aren't just a problem for man's best friend. "These pests, which commonly appear in warmer months, feed on the blood of any warm-blooded body," says Soileau. They typically bite human beings, causing itchy, unsightly marks and may cause severe allergic reactions." He explains that fleas tend to travel with mammals on the move, which can include not only people and their pets, but also rodents.